Why Is Transit Ridership Falling?

Transit ridership took a turn for the worse in 2016. In all but a handful of cities, fewer people rode trains and buses, even in some places, like Los Angeles, that have invested significantly in expanding capacity.

It’s not just a one-year blip, either. In many American cities, the drop in transit ridership is an established trend. The big question is why.

Transit consultant Jarrett Walker at Human Transit wants more than vague speculation about the effect of low gas prices and ride-hailing services. He’s looking for more specific research about causes and effects — and soon:

Bottom line: We need research! Not the sort of formally peer reviewed research that will take a year to publish, but faster work by real transportation scholars that can report preliminary results in time to guide action. I am not a transportation researcher, but there are plenty of them out there, and this is our moment of need.

Here are my research questions:

  • Which global causes seem to matter?  Straight regression analysis, once you get data you believe.  Probably the study will need to start with a small dataset of transit agencies, so that there’s time to talk with each agency and understand their unique data issues.
  • What’s happening to the quantity of transit?  If ridership is falling because service is falling, this isn’t a surprise.  If ridership is falling because service is getting slower — which means lower frequency and speed at the same cost — well, that wouldn’t be surprising either.
  • How does the decline correlate to types of service?  Is this fall happening in dense areas or just in car-based suburbs? Is it happening on routes that are designed for high ridership, or only on those that are designed for coverage purposes (services retained because three sympathetic people need them rather than because the bus will be full).   Is it correlated to frequency or span changes? Heads up, local geeks! A lot could be done looking at data for your own transit agency — route by route and even (where available) stop by stop, to analyze where in your metro the fall is really occurring… (more)

I appreciate the thought that went into this article.  In my experience, people decide how to live their lives based on their personal needs, not based on datasets and studies. My questions would be of a more personal nature and I would put them to the public.

  • Why do you take public transit when you take it?
  • Why do you chose to take another transit option when you don’t?
  • Do your priorities align with SFMTA and City Hall priorities?
  • What Muni changes do you support?
  • What Muni changes do you oppose?
  • Do you prefer speed or comfort?
  • Would you rather stand on public transit if you get there faster?
  • Would you rather sit if it takes longer to get there?

Outreach Launches This Spring to Finalize Details for Geary Rapid Upgrades

by Kate Elliott : sfmta  (includes graphics)\

We’re gearing up to start the first set of Geary transit upgrades later this year.

In the coming months, we will launch further outreach for the Geary Rapid Project, which focuses on early improvements on the stretch of the 38 Geary route between Market Street and Stanyan streets. In the meantime, we will finalize the design and construction of longer-term improvements for the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project.

With the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approved unanimously by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Board in January, lead management of the project is transitioning from the SFCTA to the SFMTA, which will design and implement Geary improvements as two separate projects… (more)

Outreach is a joke, or  I should say an insult. Angry people gave up on talking to the SFMTA wall and filed a lawsuit to stop the excesses in this project. the case is making its way through the courts now and many are praying the ruling will stop this and other controversial projects.
Taxpayers revolted in the fall when asked for more money to show their displeasure in how the SFMTA is spending the money but they have hungry contractors to feed and more high-paid planning staff to hire so they could care less what we want.
SFMTA is removing stops and bus seats and constantly forcing the public to deal with their baggage and can’t figure out why ridership is slipping. They are especially short on the weekends and evenings. Why would anyone want to spend their time off on the Muni after putting up with it all week?

Adopt a Pothole

Don’t just complain about potholes. Do something about them.
Nextdoor conversations prompted a new site for adopting potholes.
Join us and adopt one of your own. https://dogpatch.dillilabs.com
Locate your pothole on the map and upload a photo of it.

File a complaint with DPW. Take a picture. Make note of the address. File a report on it with DPW using the Mayor’s 311 complaint system. You may call 311 and speak to an operator but this can be time-consuming. It may be easier to file a complaint online http://sf311.org to get it entered into the record. They claim that all feedback is linked to the 311 system and offer you a referral number, which you can use to check on the status of your pothole. If you use that system report back on how long it takes to get it fixed.

See how other people have dealt with their potholes.
There is a international effort to “adopt a pothole” you may want to look into. Google it and you will see a lot of complaints. My favorite is this one from India: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dIdJ53T…
The creativity is endless. Here is another good one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx0OcpZ7…

Creating ‘Tech shuttle’ hubs would reduce conflicts with Muni buses

By sfexaminer – excerpt (includes maps of possible hub locations)

Moving tech shuttle pickups off of San Francisco streets and into so-called “hubs” would reduce shuttle conflicts with Muni buses and significantly decrease shuttle presence in neighborhoods.

But doing so would come with steep tradeoffs, perhaps placing thousands of cars back on the road by tech employees who may not find the hubs convenient and stop riding the shuttles…

Those are among the findings of a much-anticipated report on the impact of creating tech shuttle hubs, released by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last Friday.

The current Commuter Shuttle Program, as run by the SFMTA, is a voluntary regulatory program that 17 shuttle companies and 789 vehicles are registered to abide by. This encompasses inter-city hospital shuttles as well as the infamous tech shuttles, which transport tech workers to Silicon Valley and back during commuter hours.

Currently those shuttles weave in and out of neighborhoods to pick up passengers at 110 stops across San Francisco, though many stops are concentrated in Noe Valley, the Mission, and other neighborhoods favored by tech workers… (more)

To this argument: Tech employees who may not find the hubs convenient and stop riding the shuttles…”

I reply: Indeed removal of the local street tech routes MAY stop some people from riding shuttles, if they have to take a Muni or other service to get to the hubs. But, they MAY NOT as well. If we can test for one option, why not test for the other? A six month test that removes tech buses from small city streets such as 24th Street, is just as reasonable a proposition as a test six months “anything goes” pilot project, is is not?

 

 

Op-Ed SFMTA needs to fix more than just NextBus

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

We at San Francisco Transit Riders urge Board of Supervisors President London Breed to call for a hearing to hold the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency accountable for the failure of their NextBus prediction tool.

As we now know, the NextBus fiasco was a result of AT&T disabling the 2G network upon which NextBus depended. Back in 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable 2G as of Jan. 1, 2017. However, apparently no one at the SFMTA knew that or took it seriously.

Muni follows its schedule less than 60 percent of the time. So what makes Muni tolerable is having real-­time predictions; adding 20 minutes of uncertainty to a trip is not workable…

Lack of Internal Communications

In November, just more than a month before the NextBus failure, SFMTA’s chief technology officer, along with a NextBus representative, was promoting a new radio dispatch system coming possibly in March, according to a San Francisco Examiner article.

Seemingly, neither the chief technology officer nor the NextBus representative knew the existing system would crash well before their planned upgrades…

ack of Internal Commitment

At a meeting on Jan. 17, Director Ed Reiskin finally apologized. He acknowledged the episode was “a lesson for me in how important this service is to our riders. The reaction we got was amazing, and I don’t mean in a good way … it spoke … to how valuable having arrival predictions are for our riders.”

We wonder if Reiskin depends on Muni to get to work on time.

If we truly want to be a transit­-first city, we need transit that works well enough to attract ever more riders. We need the SFMTA to understand Muni’s key role in the daily lives of so many people who need to get to work, go to school and take their children to school.

We call for public hearings so there is public accountability. We are tired of the opacity and lack of management. We want a transparent plan forward, including a timeline addressing the City Controller’s report to ensure consistent staffing, consistent service and clearer internal management…(more)

When ENUF agrees with SF Transit Riders you know the SFMTA must be doing something wrong. it is time for some major changes. We have been complaining for years. Now we are  joined by the most pro Muni organization in town in calling for a  “Public Hearing” to discus the major problems the Muni riders are having with Muni. This should occur before any more budget items are approved since the power of the purse is the only thing the Board of Supervisors seem to be able to use to control this out of control agency.

This goes way beyond fixing NextBus and all those wonderful apps that do nothing to move people and good on the streets. We don’t need to be entertained or taught a new trick every day on our way to work. Transit should be consistent, not an adventure  game we play each day. Moving the buses and stops and traffic lanes around has gotten old and irritating, and we need a break from unwanted changes.

Muni riders to see reroutes, longer trips amid reconstruction of 100-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Long-delayed Twin Peaks Tunnel repair work is finally on track again, and that means reroutes affecting some 81,000 daily transit riders.

For the thousands who rely on Muni’s K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Oceanview light-rail lines, shuttles will replace normal service during the planned Twin Peaks Tunnel construction, with transfers to other buses needed to arrive at some regular destinations.

The work was originally slated to start last fall, then again in January, and now finally the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency quietly announced last week that track-work on the 100-year-old tunnel will begin in April…

The Twin Peaks Tunnel is a vital connector between the west side of The City and downtown, serving some 81,000 daily riders on the K, L and M lines each day, all of whom will need to adjust to a new, temporarily altered commute.

There will be five scheduled shutdowns to complete the tunnel rehabilitation, each lasting 11 to 15 days long. The constructi…(more)

 

Wiener proposes major fundraising legislation for transportation agencies statewide

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

oon, the threshold for passing local transportation bonds in California could be far lower, unlocking funding for countless transit needs across the Golden State.
A new transbay tube. Caltrain electrification. Miles of new subways in cities from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s newly introduced state constitutional amendment would make funding projects like those far easier, by lowering the threshold to pass transportation bonds from a two-thirds voter majority to 55 percent.

That threshold is determined by the California constitution. The state constitutional amendment, which Wiener plans to introduce Monday, is still in its infancy. But if it succeeds, its effects could be far reaching.

“We have massive unfunded transportation needs on public transportation, roads and bridges,” Wiener told the San Francisco Examiner. “We need to empower local communities to fund these needs.”

Those needs include more than $59 billion in deferred transportation maintenance statewide, according to draft background language of the bill. Those needs are in the Bay Area, too…

“San Francisco’s unfunded transportation needs are billions and billions of dollars,” he said, “This money is absolutely needed.”…(more)

There is no SLUSH fund in the taxpayer’s pockets. Voters opposed the last tax hike because they can’t afford it. Government has lost the trust of the people. The SFMTA claimed they would improve traffic and transit and the opposite has happened.  Many don’t want the future being planned and more cannot afford to pay for it. The solution is a moratorium on hiring and major cuts to new projects until the current ones are completed and paid for.

To Win the War on Cars, San Francisco Weaponizes Real Estate

by : wired – excerpt

I’ll start with the bad news, because I think you can take it: You can’t beat San Francisco traffic. As long as people want to live in this idyll by the bay, tech companies set up shop off Market Street, and bars offer expensive drinks made with fruit shrubs, cars and tech buses will choke its roads.

“Anecdotally, the only major cities unfettered by congestion are terribly declining Rust Belt ones,” says Marlon Boarnet, an economist and urban planning researcher with the University of Southern California. (Think Detroit, Buffalo, Youngstown.) “In our most thriving cities, we can’t make the congestion vanish because the cities are thriving.” San Francisco’s booming so hard, the only place in the US where you’ll find worse traffic is Los Angeles.

What San Francisco believes it can do, however, is improve life in the city by making it easier to get around without a car. This week, its Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring developers to stock new residential or commercial projects with more alternative-transport perks than ever before. This is no all-out war on vehicles, but rather an attempt to cut down on the number and length of car trips the natives take each day.

And if it works, San Francisco’s data-driven approach could become a template for other American cities hoping to turn big talk about transportation innovation into big action, and big results…

You’ll have to be patient: This program won’t bear serious fruit for 10 to 20 years, given the pace of development. The first projects built under the new rubric won’t get off the ground for another 18 to 24 months. But San Francisco planners say they’re already getting calls about the ordinance from other cities interested in taking this approach for a spin. And for the family that gets access to an in-apartment storage spot for their car-share friendly car seats (two points!), the lifestyle changes will happen a lot sooner. Too bad they’ll still have to find ways to entertain toddlers while stuck in traffic… (more)

The SFMTA and City Hall have been spinning this wait for results for over 10 years and so far the traffic and congestion both on the streets and on the buses has gotten worse. Taking care of the citizens is an afterthought in the rush to turn San Francisco into a innovative world class city built by and for robots.

The public transit systems are already at capacity. The SFMTA and BART solution is to cram more bodies in to the buses and trains by removing the seats, making it harder for many who rely on public transit to take it.

They really want those old and infirm people to leave and make room for the young and wealthy they think are on the way. This is creating a class war in what used to be the most liberal city in America. San Francisco housing is for sale to the highest bidder.

Today they announced approval of the Traffic Demand Management (TDM), and the sheriff evicted a 100 year old woman from her home. She is being thrown out like trash onto the street. Older people generally don’t survive such a move for long so many see this as a death sentence. Expect a protest at City Hall.

Last time the SFMTA came begging for tax dollars the voters refused to cough it up. Some indication of disgust with that department and an awakening of the populace that no longer blindly trust SFMTA and City Hall.

Contradictory Reports presented at Special SFMTA Meeting

shuttleson24th

People are asking for data about the Tech Buses. Here is some data that was presented by the SFMTA this week by the City Controller and the SFMTA.
It is interesting to read both reports and see how the Controller Report contradicts many points in the SFMTA PR spin presented at the same meeting. You can find some links to those reports here:

SFMTA Board Special Meeting Tuesday, February 7, 9 AM – agenda
Green Room War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave.
Labor negotiations and closed session followed by presentations of current projects.
Financial Overview – presentation
Items 7-9 SFMTA Board Workshop – presentation

How the media buy claims that the Bay Area has the worst traffic in the country and the best public transit is beyond me. The two would seem to cancel each other out, but, we live in a world of fake news and alternate facts. People believe what they choose to believe until they experience something different. Right now many of us are experiencing a lot of large vehicles with darkened windows roaming through our streets like a foreign invasion.

Many business reports are showing a decline in the tech and construction industries. (look it up for yourselves) At the same time, there is also an expected loss of revenues coming from the federal coffers over the next four years that could seriously impact many projects the city was planning to fund, including those proposed by the SFMTA. These issues are largely based on international financial chaos and political uncertainties.

The tech buses may not be needed much longer. If these uncertainties continue and there is a decline in ridership they should downsize the buses and fleets to reflect that change.

The corporations that run the shuttles on our city streets should be responsible for generating reports on the number of buses and passengers that use these shuttles, much as the short term rental services are being required to do now. As far as I know the reports are being generated by public volunteers.

Requiring reports would be a good first step in solving this problem.

RELATED:

Not Even Donald Trump Can Save Twitter:
huffingtonpost – excerpt
…In a press release, C.E.O. Jack Dorsey called 2016 a “transformative” period for Twitter—a positive spin on a year filled with negative headlines. In the past several months, Twitter cut 9 percent of its staff; shed businesses like Vine, which didn’t make money; explored the idea of a sale but couldn’t find a buyer; struggled with its very public abuse and harassment problems as trolls chased high-profile users such as actress Leslie Jones off the platform; sold its Fabric developer business to Google; and lost several executives, including C.O.O. Adam Bain. (Twitter’s talent exodus continues to this day: just this week, two more execs left the company.)… (more)

Can Uber Outrun Its Own Future?
huffingtonpost – excerpt
Burning through cash in a race to escape the economic realities of the ride-hailing market, Uber is looking to a future without drivers—and now without cars, either...(more)

Yahoo Says Sale to Verizon Delayed Until Second Quarter
bloomberg – excerpt
Yahoo! Inc. said the sale of its main web operations to Verizon Communications Inc. has been delayed until next quarter to meet closing conditions while the company recovers from the disclosure of massive hacks to its user accounts… (more)

Unspent Muni bond draws ire of SF supervisors

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

Board of Supervisors President London Breed, with the support of Supervisor Aaron Peskin, requested a hearing Tuesday to determine why the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, isn’t spending the $500 million in bond money voters approved in November 2014 even when there is so much need.
“Almost two and half years later, do you know how much of the $500 million has actually been spent to improve our transportation infrastructure?” Breed asked. “Twelve — $12 million. Twenty-seven months later, the MTA has spent 2 percent of the bonds we all authorized—the bonds we all said were urgently needed.”
Breed noted that the unused bond money is incurring interest payments and the value is decreasing with time, but also emphasized the importance of spending the funding on pressing needs…(more)

We deserve a list of the projects this money is being held for and details on how that money was allocated. The process is flawed. Too much emphasis is being put on future projects while nothing is being done to increase capacity or maintain the fleet of buses we have today. Our SFMTA has no interest in running the system they are charged with running efficiently or economically. All they care about is their new planning department and the latest digital gizmo they can put in the bus shelters to entertain and placate us. Thanks to the Supervisors for demanding some answers.

Holding onto 500 million while crying for more money. This is why the public does not trust the SFMTA and why they voted against the last sales tax pitch. At some point the voters were promised road repair in one of those sales pitches and we didn’t get it.
Everyone complains about potholes. Muni riders complain about how bumpy the ride is. Guess why it is bumpy? The potholes are destroying their shocks along with everyone elses. Use that money to fix the potholes before painting the streets or changing any more lanes. There are streets all over town with no plans to do anything to them. Fix those first.

RELATED:
SFMTA thrown under the bus over disuse of bond funds